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Ag Day returns to Hawaiʻi State Capitol with local food producers, researchers

Sabrina Bodon
Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Ambyr Miyake, the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death statewide outreach coordinator at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, attends Agriculture Awareness Day at the state Capitol.

Agriculture Awareness Day at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol brought farmers and food producers from across the islands to the state Legislature.

The event had been on hold during the pandemic and came back Thursday.

Attendees could walk away with a bunch of locally-grown choy sum, papayas and mac nuts to snack on.

Anthony Mao, who works in wetland cultivation at Kualoa Ranch, had a table that was covered in product.

"We have our classic papaya, banana, we have sapote, we have soursop, rambutan, guava," he listed.

Mao said the farming community is "pretty tight-knit, so (Ag Day is) a way to get together with old colleagues, see new faces, talk to people, important people that make policy decisions."

Sabrina Bodon
Hawaiʻi Public Radio
Anthony Mao of Kualoa Ranch shows off some of the farm's produce at Agriculture Awareness Day at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol.

Bronson Yadao of Kauaʻi Coffee caught an early morning flight for the day. On top of showing face, he said it was an opportunity to encourage young people to literally get into the field.

"If the next generation doesn't want to take over, then it kind of ends with the last person that's willing to do it," Yadao said.

And that's a cause close to Denise Yamaguchi, the executive director of the Hawaiʻi Agricultural Foundation, who organizes educational ag programming for youth. Thursday, she was joined by partners to showcase new agriculture tech.

"That's the next step in our educational programming is looking at ways in which we can get kids interested in science, technology, engineering and math," Yamaguchi said.

Having face-time with lawmakers gives everybody a chance to share what many farmers and food producers do daily.

"Less than half a percent of the state's budget goes to agriculture, so if we can get them to fund more agricultural infrastructure, more agriculture opportunities, or just things to help the farmers, I think that’s really needed," she said.

Ambyr Miyake, the Rapid ʻŌhiʻa Death statewide outreach coordinator at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, used Thursday to share some of the research her group has been working on with lawmakers.

"We have to do all we can to protect what's remaining because if the numbers keep increasing as they have been throughout the years, and we don't do anything about it, it's probably going to get to an uncontrollable problem in the future," Miyake said.

Sabrina Bodon is Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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